WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A husband wife duo in Wilmington is changing the lives of people in Tanzania. They design sandals in the Port City. The folks in East Africa then make them. But that’s just part of the story. It’s time to meet our Extraordinary Person of the Week…times two!
“We are really the folks that are on the ground making those connections happen so that artisan’s goods from Tanzania find their way into the United States,” Tony Peele told WWAY’s Daniel Seamans.
“Last year we incorporated a worker owned cooperative,” his wife Caroline Fisher added. “So the folks who make our shoes are all part owners of the shoe workshop.”
This husband and wife duo have a colorful mission. “These are some of them she’s(Caroline) working on for next season,” Tony said. “She’ll draw some of these up and I’ll be like I don’t know if that’s really gonna work but at the trade shows that’s the one everybody wants.”
The sandals are designed at the Cotton Exchange in Wilmington and then made in East Africa. “We’ve been making shoes for about three years with a workshop in Tanzania and it’s been going very well,” Caroline said. “We’re sold in about 35 boutiques around the country right now.”
Swahili Coast is the name and helping East Africans market their products is the game.
“We have shipments that originate across the world,” Tony said. “Japan, China, India, and routed to Africa, Tanzania, and then we have things that route from Tanzania to three different locations in the United States.”
This collaboration is a win-win worldwide.
“We are so excited to partner with them and bring their great work to the US and they are super excited hat folks in America are buying their shoes and like them,” Caroline said.
From the idea board….
“At the start of everyday we’ll come in and list out what we’re going to work on over the course of the day,” Tony said of their white board that is full of ideas.
To their motto, ‘Power over Pity’….
“We just really wanted to emphasize that we don’t pity the people we work with, it’s not charity,” Caroline added. “It’s not out of any sense of charity that we are working with them, we just appreciate them, think they are super talented and want them growing a market for their goods”
Caroline and Tony founded the Swahili Coast co-op and turned complete ownership over to the artisans making the shoes in Tanzania. Then they help sell the sandals with a portion going back to create more jobs.
“We as an organization donate 20% of sales to a NC non-profit and that goes directly to capitalize worker owned co-ops in East Africa region,” Tony said.